There seem to be a lot of people wondering what Georgia thinks about South Carolina after three straight Gamecock wins in this series.
Are the Gamecocks now officially on the Bulldogs’ radar? I get asked by fans, in chats and the guys at 107.5 asked me on the radio Monday. Head coach Steve Spurrier even addressed it Tuesday during his weekly press conference.
“It's hard for Georgia to really get mad at South Carolina,” Spurrier said. “They've got so many teams they're mad at or are mad at them, it's hard to get another big rival for Georgia. They've got Georgia Tech, Florida, Auburn, they almost had a fight with Vanderbilt couple of years ago, some of their coaches at least. So anyway, it's hard for them to have too many enemies. We still haven't beaten them enough for them to sort of circle South Carolina. But we've been fortunate the last few years.”
(Georgia, a program I covered for a decade for other newspapers, still leads the overall series 46-17-2.)
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I think Spurrier has it about right, but I think there’s a deeper explanation, and it’s this: the last two years, Georgia has been able to put the South Carolina loss behind it because the Bulldogs have rebounded to win the SEC East and play for the conference title while South Carolina sat at home. That’s been a pretty powerful salve on what otherwise would be a big wound.
This year, it seems much less likely Georgia could bounce back from a loss to South Carolina. The Bulldogs still have LSU on the schedule, while the Gamecocks avoid anybody scary from the Western Division. So South Carolina is not far from appearing on the front page of Georgia’s “Rivals” book. One more win in this series would send the Gamecocks’ small senior class out 4-0 against the Bulldogs, and, if it boosts South Carolina to Atlanta at the same time, the Gamecocks will officially be A Big Game in Athens.
(A quick geography lesson: What you’re fighting for here is Atlanta. Georgia’s main rivals essentially circle them. In North Georgia, it’s Tennessee they hate the most. Out west, it’s Auburn. Anywhere below Atlanta, it’s the Gators. But Atlanta may be prime territory for South Carolina to establish itself as arch-enemy No. 1. The Bulldogs have beaten Georgia Tech 11 of the last 12 years, and most Bulldog fans have forgotten the days when Jim Donnan got fired, essentially, for losing three straight to the Jackets. The Gamecocks, meanwhile, have stocked their roster with Atlanta kids and are making themselves more and more of a presence in the city.)
Now, to the rest of the SEC.
The biggest non-Gamecocks vs. Bulldogs news of the day seemed to come out of Alabama, and the Crimson Tide has an off week. Talk about dominating the league. Head coach Nick Saban held his an off-week news conference that got a little salty. You can watch all 11 minutes below, but the highlights are Saban addressing the absence of wide receiver Kenny Bell and saying of quarterback A.J. McCarron’s toe injury, “I am sort of sick and tired of talking about his BS, because it’s nothing.”
As you watch, keep this in mind: this is all part of Saban’s show. When he wants to get a point across to his team, he blows up in these press conferences.